French Open draw produces exciting possibilities
Novak Djokovic's bid to win a fourth consecutive Grand Slam championship — and first at the French Open — might require a semifinal victory over Roger Federer.
Friday's draw set them up to face each other in Paris at the same stage as last year, when Federer beat Djokovic in four epic sets to end the Serb's 43-match winning streak that dated to December 2010.
That was Djokovic's last loss at a major tournament: Since then, he won the titles at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and Australian Open. He's trying to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win four Grand Slam trophies in a row.
Djokovic's quarter-final opponent could be No. 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France. Other possible quarterfinal matchups: Federer vs. 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro or No. 7 Tomas Berdych; six-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal vs. No. 8 Janko Tipsarevic; and No. 4 Andy Murray vs. No. 6 David Ferrer.
Hard-hitting Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont., is in the same half of the draw as Nadal. The 19th-seeded Canadian will meet 73rd-ranked Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo of Spain in the first round. Frank Dancevic of Niagara Falls, Ont., will open against Martin Klizan of Slovakia, while Vancouver's Vasek Pospisil will face Frenchman Edouard Roger-Vasselin.
On the women's side, Aleksandra Wozniak of Blainville, Que., drew a qualifier in the first round, while Stephanie Dubois of Laval, Que., will face Shahar Peer of Israel.
The highlight of the women's quarter-finals set up in Friday's draw could be Serena Williams against Maria Sharapova.
Williams owns 13 major titles, including the 2002 French Open, while Sharapova is hoping to complete a career Grand Slam with her first title in Paris.
The other possible women's quarter-finals: No. 1-seeded and Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka vs. U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur; defending champion Li Na vs. Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova; and No. 3-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska vs. No. 8 Marion Bartoli.
In her first Grand Slam tournament since revealing she has an autoimmune disease, seven-time major champion Venus Williams could meet Radwanska in the second round and 2009 French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the third.
Seeded No. 1 at the French Open for the first time, Djokovic will play 97th-ranked Potito Starace of Italy in the first round and could face two-time major champion Lleyton Hewitt in the second.
Starace was ranked as high as 27th in 2007, but later that year he was suspended for six weeks and fined $30,000 US for betting on tennis matches involving other players.
Nadal will begin his attempt to win a record seventh title at Roland Garros, breaking a tie with Bjorn Borg, by facing 111th-ranked Simone Bolelli of Italy. Nadal might have to deal with Ivo Karlovic's big serves in the third round, and the Spaniard could meet Murray in the semifinals.